Bala Salihu has won the Agusto National Junior Chess Championship held back in August and will represent Nigeria in the African Junior Chess Championships held in Lusaka, Zambia the week of December 4-11. Fela Solaja, spokesman of the Nigerian Chess Federation (NCF) mentioned that the sponsorship of Juniors was one of the resolutions reached at the recent NCF Board meeting in Lagos. Nigeria's Junior Championship was first held in 1976 only one year after the NCF was admitted into FIDE. Agusto & Company, the sponsor of this year's event, will provide air travel for Mr. Salihu.
In order to promote chess among Nigeria's 120 million citizens, the NCF has asked its members to solicit sponsorships for tournaments that are planned for the next calendar year. Mr. Solaja asserts that the NCF will plan a series of seminars, clinics and tournaments. Another strategy is to popularize chess in the minds of the journalists who can provide much-needed exposure in a country where football (soccer) is king. "We are planning to initiate a 'Chess for All' program which will involve taking the game to the media in the first instance, after which they will in turn constitute the arrowhead for our drive to take chess to the organized private sector."
The NCF plans to aggressively expand the Chess-in-Schools Program which is currently confined to Lago due to budget constraints. Of course, funding the schools is the key to grooming strong players to compete in international competitions (including the Olympiads). Only three years ago, IM Odion Aikhoje won a gold medal on 2nd board at the Olympiad in Elista, but last year saw disappointment as Nigeria was unable to participate.
There are many Nigerian players scattered around the world including a strong contingent in the United States. NM George O. Umezinwa has been a strong player in the U.S. for decades. IM Oladapo Adu has certainly been a force, and former Nigerian Junior champs such as IM Thomas Oparaugo (1988-89), NM Okechukwu Iwu (1992-93) , and NM Tolani Owosina (1982-83) have also made impressions on the U.S. tournament circuit. Certainly, with the assistance of local sponsors, there has to be a bright future for Nigerian chess!!
Best wishes to the Nigerian Chess Federation!
Posted by The Chess Drum: 3 November 2001